Goss v. Lopez

Following is the case brief for Goss v. Lopez, United States Supreme Court, (1975)

Case summary for Goss v. Lopez:

  • High school student Lopez brought a class action against the school district of Ohio for suspending him without a hearing.
  • The student’s claimed the state statute in place violated their 14th Amendment Due Process rights.
  • The district court found for Lopez and in response, the school system appealed to the Supreme Court.
  • The Court held that Lopez and the other eight high school student’s Procedural Due Process rights were violated since the school district’s suspension policy does not provide an opportunity for explanation or presentation of an opposing view when a student denies the alleged charges.

 Goss v. Lopez Case Brief

Statement of the facts:

Pursuant to a state statute, the principal of a public school could suspend a student for up to ten days and not provide a hearing so long as the student’s parents are provided with notice within twenty-four hours. Nine high school student’s including Lopez, were suspended, absent a hearing. In response the students brought a claim against Goss, the school systems administrator, in district court, claiming that their suspension violated their Due Process rights under the 14th Amendment.

Procedural History:

The district court found for the students and the Ohio school systems appealed to the Supreme Court of the United States.

Rule of Law or Legal Principle Applied:

When a student is receiving suspension for ten days or less, he or she must be provided with oral or written notice of the alleged charges, explanation of evidence and an opportunity to rebut under the 14th Amendment’s Due Process Clause.

Issue and Holding:

Does a school system’s policy of suspending students for up to ten days absent a hearing violate the student’s Procedural Due Process rights under the 14th Amendment? Yes.


The Court affirmed the district court’s decision.


The Ohio school system argues that prior decisions hold that there is no constitutional right to public education. They claim that as a result, there can be no constitutional safeguard against suspensions without a hearing from a public school.

In response, the Court held that this argument misconstrues prior jurisprudence. The court notes that the 14th Amendment’s general protection of life, liberty, and property interests do not produce specific constitutional rights. These protected rights are outlined from independent sources. Sources like state statutes or rules which entitle citizens to specific benefits.

Here, Lopez and the other high school student’s have legitimate claims, specifically to the entitlement to public education based on Ohio’s state law. After Ohio extended the right to education to Lopez, it cannot withdraw the right for misconduct without providing fair procedures determining if the misconduct actually occurred. The Court held that the state is required to recognize the student’s legitimate entitlement to a public education and construe it as a property interest protected under the Due Process Clause.

It is important to note that the state cannot randomly deprive students of certain liberty interests they hold. Under the Due Process Clause, it is unconstitutional to suspend students without fair procedures. This is because suspending students may negatively impact their academic standing and relationships with other students and teachers. Suspension could also harm later opportunities relating to further employment and education.

In regards to the required process, the Court held that although it impracticable for school administrators to perform in depth hearings every time a potential suspension may occur, fairness prohibits a one-sided decision. As a result, a student facing suspension of ten days or less must be provided with the oral or written notice of the charges against him. If a student denies the charges, then an opportunity to present an opposing view in addition to an explanation of the evidence is required.

Concurring or Dissenting opinion:

The Majority is incorrect regarding the required procedure. Such procedure by judicial intervention in the operation of public schools can adversely impact the quality of education of students. In addition, under Ohio law a student’s interest in education is not infringed upon by a suspension of ten days or less.


Goss v. Lopez established that public school students who are suspended are entitled to both notice and a hearing, under the Procedural Due Process Clause of the 14th Amendment.

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